How to Deal With a Controlling Spouse

by Melody Causewell ; Updated December 08, 2017

Relationships can be difficult, but a controlling spouse makes a marriage even more complex and difficult to handle. By talking to your partner, setting boundaries, taking care of yourself and considering your options, you can work toward a healthier relationship and protect your best interests.

Talk to Your Spouse

Communicating your concerns about the controlling behavior is a good first step. Some people repeat behaviors they saw growing up and don't realize how they affect their partners. If she says, "I don’t want you to go out because I said so," you have every right to ask questions. Be as open, honest and calm as you can during these discussions. By asking why the behaviors are occurring, you may uncover insecurities about the relationship. Consider seeing a counselor to work through the controlling behaviors and build a healthier relationship.

Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries lets your spouse know you won't tolerate the controlling behavior going forward. It's a healthy way for you to ask for the respect and kindness you deserve. Be direct with your boundaries. Explain what behaviors bother you. Offer consequences for continuing the behaviors, such as, "I feel disrespected and controlled when you tell me I cannot see my friends. I'm going anyway. If you continue these behaviors, I will stay there for the night until you can calm down and talk about this." By being clear about your intentions and setting boundaries, you show your partner that controlling behaviors will not be tolerated.

Take Care of Yourself

Being in a relationship with a controlling person can take a toll on your mental health. A controlling spouse may cause you to feel depressed or unhappy. Taking care of yourself can help you improve your outlook on life. Make time for things like getting together with friends or finding a hobby that makes you feel good about yourself. Seek professional help for more persistent mental health issues such as depression or low self-esteem.

Consider Your Options

Partners who show controlling behaviors are more likely to use physical or sexual violence. Even if things have not escalated to this point, you do have options if you are unhappy. Get legal advice to work through your options if you feel the relationship is beyond repair or your spouse shows no intention of changing. If you are being physically abused or are afraid violence may occur, seek assistance at a local shelter, friends or family. And if things do get heated or violent, contact authorities to protect your own safety.

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About the Author

Melody Causewell has been a writer in the mental health field since 2001. She written training manuals and clinical programs for mental health organizations. She has published feature articles "Leaven" magazine and has been published in "Natural Awakenings." She has a degree in psychology, a Masters degree in social work and is a La Leche League leader.